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One in 10 facing burnout in UK

Pandemic hammers mental health of business leaders as economic fears hit home

More than three quarters of business leaders (78%) have experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, Bupa Global's Executive Wellbeing Index, released today, has suggested.

Charting the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on business leaders and wealth creators across Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia, the report has led experts to warn that tighter Covid restrictions could land another wave of intense psychological pressure on them.

According to the Centre of Mental Health, at least half a million more people in the UK are likely to experience mental ill-health as a result of the pandemic, and this was reflected in the Bupa Global study which showed one in 10 (10%) business leader reporting burnout in this country.

The economy was cited as the biggest concern for high-end professionals, with less than half (44%) feeling optimistic about their nation's recovery, something that could be exacerbated by the most recent restrictions. Confidence levels in the UK fell behind France, UAE, Egypt and China, but ahead of USA and Hong Kong.

The index also revealed that reduced personal freedoms during the UK's first lockdown have also taken their toll on the mental health of business leaders, with 40% - the highest globally - reporting high rates of fatigue, lack of energy, lower motivation, as well as anger, impatience, disturbed sleep and mood swings.

Worryingly, a third (32%) of executives have delayed seeking help, with a similar number (31%) admitting to finding it hard to talk about their mental health.  

Bupa Global medical director, Dr Luke James said: "Whatever the outlook, one thing is certain — when the economy is struggling, we're also more likely to struggle with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. And with the threat of a second lockdown approaching, we may see an exacerbation in mental-ill health too. Acknowledging this, taking steps to support your emotional wellbeing and addressing any issues as quickly as possible are the keys to coping with these challenges because when it comes to mental health, early diagnosis and treatment can have a positive impact on prognosis."

Employee health schemes

The study of almost 2000 high net individuals and senior executives also showed them putting the health and wellbeing of their colleagues and families before their own, with 31% in the UK - the highest globally next to UEA - citing as their biggest concern, while 25% said they had committed to providing more or better mental health support within their organisation, compared to 23% in France and 20% in US.

Sheldon Kenton, managing director of Bupa Global, said: "The future is still uncertain, and with the threat of the pandemic entering a second wave, leaders will need to brace themselves for even greater challenges ahead. Many businesses are suffering and need their leaders and people to be in good health. The need for preventative care and mental health support has never been greater.

"It's good business to protect people - after all they're the most important resource in any successful business. As a premium health insurer, our role is to find a way to provide a holistic approach to protecting our customers' health. The Bupa Global Executive Wellbeing Index helps us identify critical concern areas, so we can personalise these solutions."

Over half (52%) of executives shared that their attitudes towards public and private healthcare systems have improved during the Covid-19 pandemic. Six in 10 are planning to purchase private medical insurance in the next 12 months, expecting greater emphasis on preventative care (including maintenance of good mental health) as well as supporting mental ill-health.

Adam Saville
COVER Magazine

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